'It's the Panic That Kills You.' So He Didn't Panic

Don Cavers, 77, had quite the ordeal in the Caribbean Sea
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2022 12:33 PM CST
Updated Feb 27, 2022 7:25 AM CST
He Was Sailing Alone at 77. Things Went Wrong
Cavers had intended to sail from Colombia to Puerto Rico.   (Getty Images)

Things went from bad to worse to oh-no for a 77-year-old man in the Caribbean Sea in December. But "it's the panic that kills you," says Canadian Don Cavers, and he managed not to panic. Cavers had flown to Colombia the month prior to buy a sailboat, then set out in it, solo, for Puerto Rico. After departing Colombia on Dec. 2, he noticed the boat wasn't exactly cruising along. Turns out it was leaking water through every hatch. He tells the CBC that over the successive days he bailed out the 3 inches of water, saw most of the boat's electrical systems fail after saltwater exposure, and hit a reef while sleeping after being forced to hand-steer for as many as 18 hours straight. The boat sank, though Cavers managed to launch his life raft and bring along key items.

Among them: a locator beacon, about 5 gallons of water, a bag of nacho chips, and some crackers. For the first three days he limited himself to two handfuls of chips a day, then moved on to the crackers, which he topped with small fish he caught using a mesh cone that was attached to his raft. He was able to send out a signal from the locator beacon on the third day and was rescued, south of Cuba, on day six. If you're impressed that someone pushing 80 managed to survive all that, know it's not the first time he's managed an impressive feat. He tells the CBC he's made it through everything from a bout of amoebic dysentery in Afghanistan in the 1960s to an emergency landing of his four-seat plane nearly 20 years ago. (The CBC has plenty of photos here.)

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